After the unjust verdict

I have a very heavy heart following the verdict of involuntary manslaughter in the trial of the BART cop who shot Oscar Grant in the back on New Years Day, 2009.

And I’d like to move away from the media’s focus in the Mehserle trial, as they try desperately to come up with stories of violence among the largely peaceful gatherings. I’ve seen “shock” and “shame” over looting done by a small minority of those who clearly weren’t gathering in hopes of building community and making change, like many others were, without media coverage. Some say the looting is “more shameful” than the unjust verdict itself.


Is this what we should be focusing on? Is the fact that some took advantage of this moment to cause chaos, following sensational media hype all but calling for it, more shocking than the fact that a cop can shoot an unarmed black man in the back as he lies down on the pavement, and avoid being convicted of murder? More shocking than the sound of a gunshot ending the life of a young man, a father, a son? More shocking than the horror the Grant family faces for the rest of their lives?

Dare I say that to focus on the looting, of all things, is not really the point.

So I’ve dwelled too long on it already. Moving on.

What’s weighing much more heavily on my heart is the thought of Oscar Grant’s family. His mother describes the verdict as being “slapped in the face by a system that has denied us true justice.” I feel the echo of her words: “My son was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered.” It breaks my heart that she has to deal with a justice system that doesn’t agree.

I hope, at least, that more than violence or media sensationalism, this can lead to conversation, to speaking out about how it feels for the justice system to value some lives over others, to writing or creating art or doing whatever we can to express ourselves, as Jen Cross calls for here. The truth is, regardless of the verdict, Oscar Grant is lost forever. Let’s hold one another and hope not to lose another so senselessly ever again.

‎”Justice does not come to the swift nor the strong, but to the one who endures to the end. And as a family and as a nation of African-American people, we will fight for justice til the end”- Wanda Johnson


It’s hard to focus my feelings about everything right now enough to write about it, but here’s something.

For Oscar Grant and Wanda Johnson

When You Hope for Justice and Get a Slap in the Face

when you hope for justice

and get a slap in the face,

hold your head high.

feel the sting of it,

know the pain is real

and don’t let anybody tell you

it was never there.


know your tears aren’t for nothing,

let them fall to the earth

to water the seeds

that will grow the roots

to anchor the trees

that cannot be moved.

know that you, too,

cannot be moved.

when you hope for justice

and get a slap in the face,

look to the past.

to those who were beaten and left to die,

whose sadness and rage

left them still standing,

and built the ground we stand on today.

look to the future,

where today’s heavy hearts

are tomorrow’s beacons of hope.

our hope may be lost

but our determination can be found again.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 10:42 AM  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. feel the sting of it,

    know the pain is real

    and don’t let anybody tell you

    it was never there.

    Yes yes yes — thank you so much for this piece, Maisha!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: